Obstacles complicate possible makeover of city’s Main Street

Preliminary information about a makeover for Main Street left members of the Hillsboro City Council facing as many challenges as solutions about the project’s feasibility.

City Engineer Bob Previtera of Reiss & Goodness was on hand at the council’s regular Aug. 7 meeting to present initial cost estimates for the project, which included improvements on Main Street from D to Third streets, plus improvements for one block both east and west of Main on Grand and one block west of Main on First Street past the new post office.

An estimated $1.107 million would be needed to complete the project in a way Previtera felt would solve the street-surface and drainage issues that prompted the council to explore their options in the first place.

A scaled-down version of the project that would resurface the designated streets but with minimal curb-and-gutter replacement and drainage improvements was estimated to cost $675,000.

Anticipating the city could not afford the entire project at once, Previtera divided it into six sections and outlined the costs and challenges of each one.

“This will not be a simple overlay project like we did on D Street,” he said.

That became most apparent when discussion focused on Section 2 of the project, the 100 block of North and South Main streets.

The two-block area in the heart of Hillsboro’s business district is the most needy, according to the mayor and council, the most expensive to redo, according to Previtera, and the most logistically challenging to pull off, according to everyone involved in the discussion.

The cost of reconstructing the two blocks or so from A Street to about 50 feet north of the new post office-including replacing curb-and-gutters, reducing the center crown, and redoing some sidewalks-was estimated at $405,000.

Beyond the significant cost was the possibility of significant inconvenience to downtown businesses. Because of the thoroughness of the makeover, Previtera said the two-block project would likely require a 60-to-90-day contract.

“That’s what scares the daylights out of me,” said Councilor Wendell Dirks, expressing the sentiments of the others, too. “We’d put some businesses under if we kept Main Street closed that long.”

The council discussed a variety of options, including closing only one side of the street at a time, doing that part of the project in smaller increments, or settling for a more superficial resurfacing job that would leave the curb-and-guttering alone but at least attempt to reduce the steep crown that currently exists on those two blocks.

Previtera said he was told that five inches of asphalt has accumulated through the years over the original brick street. If so, the crown could be reduced simply by removing several inches of the asphalt toward the peak.

In the end, the council decided it would need more information before making a decision, including drilling core samples to find out for sure how much asphalt cover the bricks .

The issue was to be discussed again at the council’s Aug. 14 special meeting.

“I think we all know something needs to be done,” Mayor Delores Dalke said. “Main Street is terrible and it’s getting worse.”

In other business, the council:

— accepted Mayor Delores Dalke’s recommendation to appoint Ben Steketee as fire chief for the Hillsboro, effective Aug. 16. He will succeed Wayne Lowry, who is retiring after 38 years with the department and 26 years as fire chief.

“I appreciate that you have the confidence to appoint me,” said Steketee, who has been a volunteer firefighter for Hillsboro for the past four years.

— approved the “City of Hillsboro, Kansas, Citizen Participation Plan,” which outlines the way the city intends to encourage citizen participation, particularly by low and moderate-income persons who reside in areas where the city’s $270,000 block grant are proposed to be used.

— accepted ordinances 1048 and 1049 which adopt the “2001 Uniform Public Offense Code for Kansas Cities” and the “2001 Standard Traffic Ordinance for Kansas Cities,” respectively, for use by the City of Hillsboro.

— approved Resolution No. 2001-08, which sets a public hearing to hear comments about a tax-emption request for property owned by Container Services for 6 p.m., Aug. 21.

— voted to opt out of the Clean Drinking Water fee proposed by the Kansas Water Office and the Department of Revenue. Instead of initiating a fee of three cents per 1,000 gallons of water sold at retail, the city will continue to pay sales and compensation-use taxes on taxable purchase of property and services.

— agreed to schedule bid-letting for an overlay project at the city airport for 2 p.m., Sept. 4. The project would include a four-inch overlay over the runway with appropriate painting of stripes and lettering. The council also heard of plans for new lighting at the airport.

— heard from City Administrator Steven Garrett that final damage estimates from the recent fire at the city’s maintenance shed won’t be known until a more complete inventory is compiled. The council also discussed options for replacing lost vehicles in the electrical department, but made no decisions.

— heard from Garrett a preliminary proposal that would grant some sick-leave days for employees in their first year of employment with the city. Council members had mixed opinions about the proposal and recalled incidents when sick-leave policies have been abused by employees in the past and present.

“I’d say it’s part of my job that we don’t get snookered too often,” Garrett said.

The council will consider the matter again at a future meeting.

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